Editorial on current Walt Disney World prices

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 8:52 AM

I often ask this question on the Disneyana boards: Why are you planning a Disney vacation? is it to ride a bunch of rides, or is it to have a great time with family and/or friends?

Usually, the answer is "have a great time." And, if that's the answer, and you can remember that that is the answer, it's a lot easier to navigate a vacation there.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 10:09 AM

Brian Noble, I think I understand your point, but can you provide a scenario in which a people planning a vacation would not state "having a great time" was the primary reason for why they are planning their vacation?

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 10:29 AM

I've read plenty of reviews and trip reports on here and elsewhere that make it hard to believe that the author set out to have fun.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 11:11 AM

Yeah. What is defined as a great time? It all depends, and I'm going to guess that "spending a lot of money to get into a park and ride five things in ten hours" isn't going to be the case with many. I agree that there is something to be said for the experience- walking around, being in that environment, enjoying the sights when it gets dark, etc. But I'm also going to reiterate that, as an AP that gets to spend a lot of time in the parks despite living a thousand miles away, my expectations are different than those of a family vacationing at the parks.

Andy: You're right, I was only referring to ticket prices. The changes alone could increase a family's ticket costs by $1k. We can sit here and repeat the belief that prices can continue to increase without any effect, but when a family vacation to Orlando increases by that amount, it's eventually going to price the experience away from those without the disposable income- which seems to be a lot of people these days. Money is a finite thing for many, and even if the desire is there, the finances may not be.

I do fill some of my time with "non wait" still like Carousel of Progress, the Hall of Presidents, the American Adventure, and even the Circlevision films, but most times I find there are waits for things that used to be walk-ons, like the Peoplemover.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 11:15 AM

I have yet to see anyone say in this thread that the price increases won't reach a limit at some point, just that they haven't gotten there yet and that Disney knows where that limit is more than armchair theme park executives.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 12:28 PM

So you were expecting this conversation to be one populated with executives "in the know"?

It's a coaster enthusiast site, populated by coaster enthusiasts with varying degrees of knowledge, but plenty of opinions. If we all knew the answers, this discussion would be pretty dull.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 12:38 PM

bigboy said:

I have yet to see anyone say in this thread that the price increases won't reach a limit at some point, just that they haven't gotten there yet and that Disney knows where that limit is more than armchair theme park executives.

This.

However, I'm gonna go ahead and come as close to saying it as anyone will.

Obviously, there's a price that stops people from coming. Tickets won't sell tomorrow at $10,000 each, for example.

But it's not as hard as we try to pretend it is. Right now Disney has a product where demand is outpacing price by a longshot. They can't seem to raise the price enough to curb the demand.

So you keep raisining the price. And when demand wavers, you're there.

That's when you create more demand. (Star Wars, et al?)

With that all said, they priced me out (and likely many, many others) a long time ago. It doesn't matter. We keep talking about pricing certain people out. So? Premium products exist. Disney is easily the premium theme park vacation - so much so that it's barely a theme park vacation as much as it's a larger vacation experience. It isn't necessarily about riding rides like a day at Six Flags, it's about experiencing Disney.

So you were expecting this conversation to be one populated with executives "in the know"?

You don't have to be an executive in the know to know that they know more than you know. :)

It's a coaster enthusiast site, populated by coaster enthusiasts with varying degrees of knowledge, but plenty of opinions. If we all knew the answers, this discussion would be pretty dull.

Trust me. You're there. The horse is dead.

Rob Ascough said:

We can sit here and repeat the belief that prices can continue to increase without any effect, but when a family vacation to Orlando increases by that amount, it's eventually going to price the experience away from those without the disposable income...

Let me know when that happens. In fact, let's revisit this thread in a year, then five and ten and more and see.

I put the burden of proof on you. I say it isn't going to eventually price enough people out to matter to Disney's bottom line.

I don't know. Maybe this sounds similar to conversations we've had in the past, and maybe it IS a repeat of those conversations, but I still have to wonder if there will come a breaking point. I mean, there has to at some point. It's money.

Just because there's a number that does start to damage the bottom line, doesn't mean Disney ever goes there. There's no reason to believe they will.

We all agree. A "too high" number exists. You just seem a lot more sure than anyone else that Disney will reach it.

Beyond that, there's nothing to discuss except you repeating, "Yeah, but what if?"

What if? Well, then Disney corrects their pricing trajectory. Problem solved.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 12:46 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

So you keep raisining the price.

Last edited by Vater, Wednesday, April 10, 2019 2:48 PM
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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 12:54 PM

Rob Ascough said:

If we all knew the answers, this discussion would be pretty dull.

I'm no detective, but it seems that you're implying that it currently isn't.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 1:44 PM

You know, you all might be right. Disney might very well be trying to price out "the middle class," however you'd like to define it. Why might they want to do this? Because the middle class is shrinking. From that article:

the nation’s aggregate household income has substantially shifted from middle-income to upper-income households, driven by the growing size of the upper-income tier and more rapid gains in income at the top. Fully 49% of U.S. aggregate income went to upper-income households in 2014, up from 29% in 1970. The share accruing to middle-income households was 43% in 2014, down substantially from 62% in 1970.2

Disney has been chasing this trend for a long time now. When they first introduced the dining plans, the one marketed most heavily included one sit-down meal per day. Guests, on average, certainly didn't eat one sit-down meal per day. But, Disney wasn't marketing to the average guest. They were marketing to the upper end of their existing guest demographic. The constant addition of extra-cost, premium experiences is not just a money grab (though I suppose it is that). It is also creating an experience that is more appealing to people with more discretionary income. Sure, the average person is not going to plunk down $140 to spend three hours in the Magic Kingdom with a vague Villains theme, no matter how short the lines are. But, the fact that it exists might make the overall vacation experience more pleasant for those who are not thinking about whether or not they can afford what a Disney vacation costs, but instead are wondering where they should go this year given they can spend that much or more.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 1:50 PM

Rob Ascough said:

So you were expecting this conversation to be one populated with executives "in the know"?

I suggested nothing along those lines. You keep trying to convince everyone that there's a limit to Disney's price increases and no one in this thread has disagreed with that point. That's all I was pointing out. My line about armchair executives wasn't relevant to that point.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 1:56 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

So you keep raisining the price.

Vater said:

If that doesn't catch on as an honest-to-goodness financial term, there is no God.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 2:25 PM

I've enjoyed following this thread. And, although I've been entertained reading everyone's opinions the issue still has me scratching my head. For, my family is taxed in a category "above the median" and yet I found Disney's prices to be too rich for my blood. I understand this is me interjecting my own bias and perhaps disconnect, but it seems preposterous that so many people are spending so much money on a family vacation to a Disney property, knowing that for most of those family's such a spend is a noticeable percentage of their yearly income.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 2:33 PM

I promise I'm not trying to oversimplify your point, but different people are going to have different vacation preference and will value vacations differently. For my family and with my daughter at that sweet spot age (8 years old now), we saw a great deal of value and fun in hitting up some form of Disney 4 years in a row - WDW as a family, DLR as a family, WDW for the adults, and WDW as a family with my brothers family. The value shot up on the last trip with a bounce back deal booked on the adult trip that included a room discount and free dining. As much as we like a Disney trip and, apparently a lot of other people do too, I totally get that not everyone sees the same value in it.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 2:44 PM

I understand bigboy and appreciate your clarification. I'm not saying people don't receive value in taking a trip to a Disney property nor that these people feel that the value received was worth the money paid. I'm merely interjecting my opinion that "I don't get it."

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 3:01 PM

"Raisining the Price" - The act of steadily increasing the price of a product, commodity, or other object of value with a demand that is outpacing price until such demand begins to shrivel and dry up, you know, like a raisin.

Last edited by OhioStater, Wednesday, April 10, 2019 3:01 PM
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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 3:04 PM

Genius, really.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 7:28 PM

Quite accidentally, really...

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 8:44 PM

Brian Noble said:

You know, you all might be right. Disney might very well be trying to price out "the middle class," however you'd like to define it. Why might they want to do this? Because the middle class is shrinking.

Yeah, it's shrinking, but that narrative keeps implying that it's because people are getting poorer. That's not the case. Most of the "disappearing" middle class is graduating to a richer class, not poorer. In fact, the macro trend over the last 50 years has been relatively flat with 12-15% of Americans below the poverty level.

So with that said, why wouldn't Disney chase the people who can afford it? It's a growing segment of the population.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019 10:42 AM

BrettV said:
What were your thoughts on the After Hours event? I imagine the experience there would be similar to what a true slow season day would have been like back in the day. Was it truly 3 hours of having the run of the place? If so, I would absolutely see the value in it, given the current crowd levels even during regular seasons.

Yes, it was like back in the day. Other than the included ice cream and pop, it was just a ton of short lines. Waited less than 20 minutes for 7 dwarves, maybe 5-10 minutes for Peter Pan, walk right onto the next boat for Small World which had as high as a 40-minute wait during the day.

Definitely shorter lines than the Christmas Party last year, or the Halloween Party the year before. In 3 hours, we did:

  • Jungle Cruise
  • Pirates of the Carribean
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Peter Pan
  • Small World
  • 7 Dwarves (twice)
  • Space Mountain
  • Buzz Lightyear
  • TTA (which had been over 30-minute wait earlier in the day as well)
  • enjoyed Mickey ice cream bars and a frozen banana

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